Truce agreement reached: Israel and fighters in Gaza to 'hold fire'

In Gaza City today, flames and smoke rise from the site hit by an air strike from Israeli forces.
In Gaza City today, flames and smoke rise from the site hit by an air strike from Israeli forces. Ahmed Jadallah /Reuters /Landov

Israel and fighters in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip will "hold fire" beginning at 11 a.m. PT, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced Wednesday at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Egypt has been trying to broker a truce in the week-old exchange of rockets and air strikes between Israel and militants in Gaza.

We'll have more on the agreement shortly.

Our original post and earlier updates. "Bomb Rips Through Bus In Tel Aviv; Israel Continues Strikes On Gaza":

We're posting on the latest news from Israel and the Gaza Strip, and about efforts to bring about a cease-fire or truce. There's been an explosion on a bus today in Tel Aviv and Israel continues to hit targets in and around Gaza City. Meanwhile, efforts to broker a truce or cease-fire continue:

Update at 9:10 a.m. PT. Renewed Talk of a Truce:

Reuters reports that "Israel and the Islamist militant group Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a Gaza cease-fire deal, said a Palestinian official with knowledge of Egyptian mediation between the two sides."

Correspondent Barack Ravid from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz tweets that "Israel official: SecState Clinton will announce 20:00 in Cairo on cease fire in Gaza." That would be 10 a.m. PT. Al-Jazeera says the announcement will come from Egyptian officials.

As we wrote earlier, "It's important to bear in mind that each day we seem to get reports of truce or cease-fire deals being discussed, only to be followed by reports of rockets being fired from Gaza and Israeli air strikes in response."

Update at 9 a.m. PT. Israeli Official Says Most of Those Killed in Gaza "Deserved It":

On WNYC's "The Takeaway" today, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, "If you compare the situation in Gaza, let's say, to the situation in Syria today, where the Assad regime just mercilessly butchers people and children, there is a big difference. I would say that most of the people that were hit in Gaza deserved it, as they were just armed terrorists."

Update at 8 a.m. PT. U.N. Secretary-General Says "Many Details" Need to Be Worked Out Before Any Cease-Fire.

Reuters writes from Cairo:

"U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday there were 'many details to work out' before a cease-fire could be reached to end the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. 'I am particularly concerned about the spiral of violence at the time of intense efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel,' Ban said. 'We all know there are many details to work out. But while that happens civilians continue to die.' "

Also: The number of people wounded by the explosion on a bus in Tel Aviv today is now being reported by the BBC and other news outlets as more than 20.

Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of the bus bombing in central Tel Aviv today.
Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of the bus bombing in central Tel Aviv today. (Gideo Markowicz /EPA /LANDOV)

The BBC adds that Gaza officials say that over the past week, there have been 152 people killed there — 13 of them today. There have been five deaths in Israel.

Update at 7 a.m. PT. Truce Offer Being Discussed?

It's important to bear in mind that each day we seem to get reports of truce or cease-fire deals being discussed, only to be followed by reports of rockets being fired from Gaza and Israeli air strikes in response. So keep that in mind as Reuters' Dan Williams tweets:

"Netanyahu convenes nine-member inner council to discuss Gaza truce offer; ministers 'optimistic' it could begin tonight."

Update at 5:30 a.m. PT. If There Is a Cease-fire, How Might It Work?

According to Reuters, "Israel's best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said an emerging outline of a ceasefire agreement called for Egypt to announce a 72-hour ceasefire followed by further talks on long-term understandings."

Update at 4:50 a.m. PT. U.S. Condemns Bus Attack:

"The United States strongly condemns this terrorist attack [the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv] and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the people of Israel," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says in a statement released by her staff. "As I arrive in Cairo, I am closely monitoring reports from Tel Aviv, and we will stay in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu's team. The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that Israel requires."

The White House released a similar statement, and also said that "these attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous. The United States will stand with our Israeli allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. The United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel's security and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people."

From Jerusalem, NPR's Philip Reeves reports that the bus attack "happened around the same time Clinton was meeting Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah - before heading to Egypt. ... Many Israelis will view a bomb planted on a bus in the heart of their biggest city as a significant escalation in the conflict."

From Gaza, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports that "overnight, Israeli forces continued to bomb government offices, rocket launch sites and Hamas operatives in Gaza, and militants continued to launch rockets at Israel.

Our original post:

Tuesday's talk of a possible cease-fire has been replaced with news today of an explosion on a bus in Tel Aviv and more Israeli airstrikes on targets in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The bus explosion injured at least 17 people, according to news reports. Israeli officials are saying that a bomb was left on the bus and are calling this a "terrorist attack." The BBC reports that the "Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV" has issued a statement saying it "welcomes" the news of the bombing. The BBC's Jon Donnison tweets that "Hamas claims responsibility for bus explosion in Tel Aviv broadcatsing statement from mosques in #Gaza."

In the week since Israel began airstrikes on targets in Gaza — in response to rocket fire from forces in the Hamas-controlled territory — more than 130 people have reportedly been killed on the Gaza side and at least five have died in Israel.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remain in the region. Egypt has been trying to broker a cease-fire or truce. Clinton and Ban are trying to help move that process along.

Clinton has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. She goes to Egypt today. NPR's Philip Reeves reports that "all eyes are on the negotiations there, though no one is under any illusion that these will be easy."

We will update this post with news as the day continues.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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